What's Your Protein IQ?
What if there was a single nutrient that could help us get leaner, stronger, curb cravings and increase alertness and focus? There is. And it's safe and relatively simple: it's protein.
Protein is an essential component of every cell in our body, serving as "building blocks" for bones, muscles, cartilage, skin and blood. Our bodies need protein to make enzymes and hormones and maintain healthy blood pressure, among other key functions.
Protein can also help with weight control: it's digested more slowly than carbs, so we tend to stay fuller longer.
The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for protein is 46 grams for women and 56 grams for men. The RDA for protein can also be calculated based on body weight, with the recommendation of 0.36 grams of protein per pound of body weight. But many researchers and health professionals say this isn't enough, recommending a higher range of 0.45 to 0.68 grams of protein per pound. I agree.
For an average 150-pound person, this translates to 75-150 grams of protein daily – significantly more than the 46 to 56 grams recommended by the RDA.
Best Sources of Protein
The American Institute for Cancer Research recommends that we steer clear of processed meats as much as possible (think bacon, sausage, deli meats), and suggests that we limit red meat to 18 ounces a week.
Instead, keep the emphasis on protein-rich foods like fish, fresh (skinless) poultry and eggs. Make an effort to include more non-meat protein options like lentils, red beans and Greek yogurt – these meatless foods are linked to a host of health benefits, and they're rich in a variety of nutrients beyond protein.
The following are options with 20 grams of protein for you to consider:
- Egg whites (5 egg whites) – 80 calories
- Tilapia (3.3 ounces) – 93 calories
- Shrimp (3.3 ounces) – 100 calories
- Chicken (3.3 ounces) – 103 calories
- Protein powder (1 scoop whey, casein, plant-based) – 100-120 calories
- Greek yogurt (0 percent plain; 6.6 ounces) – 111 calories
- 95 percent lean ground beef (3.3 ounces) – 126 calories
- Salmon (3.3 ounces) – 133 calories
- Quest Protein Bar (1 bar) – 181 calories
- Amy's Quarter Pounder Veggie Burger (1 burger) – 210 calories
- Eggs (3 1/3 eggs) – 236 calories
- Lentils (1 1/8 cup, cooked) – 255 calories
- Red beans (1 ¼ cup, cooked) – 300 calories
- Milk (2 percent reduced fat; 2.5 cups) – 305 calories
- 70 percent lean ground beef (5 ounces) – 465 calories
- Peanut butter or almond butter (5 tablespoons) – 475 calories
- Amy's California Veggie Burger (1 burger) – 500 calories
- Flavored yogurt (e.g. Yoplait Original, 3 1/3 cartons) – 500 calories
- Almonds (2/3 cup) – 540 calories
One last point is to not get faked out by foods positioned as “protein rich.” There are often better options available, so be cautious of the following:
- Smoothie King's Muscle Punch Smoothie
- Protein bars like Kellogg's Special K Protein Snack Bars and Fiber One Protein Bars